Editorial-Morning edition

February 02, 1998

Editorial - Curbing parking scofflaws

For a motorist in a hurry, temptation sometimes presents itself in this way: You're running late and you just need to run into a store or the dry cleaner for just a moment. But the shopping center is busy, and all the parking spaces within 100 yards of the front door are taken.

All the spaces, that is, except those handicapped spots. They're empty now, and what are the odds anybody will need them in the next few minutes?

The reason most of us resist such temptations is that while we can walk the extra distance to the back of the lot, most disabled people can't. To deprive them of the opportunity to shop is not only cruel, it's against the law.


But in West Virginia, lawmakers and handicapped advocates say the law is seldom enforced, a fact they want to change with a new corps of citizen watchdogs. Backers tout this as a better way to enforce the law, but we need some cost estimates first.

Co-sponsored by Sen. John Blair Hunter, D-Monogalia, the bill would have police train volunteers, then issue them disposable cameras and booklets of forms. They'd photograph the offending vehicle, place a copy of the form on the windshield, then send the other to police, who would issue the offender a ticket by mail.

Now comes the part that raises doubts. Although volunteers wouldn't be paid and the cost of cameras, booklets and training would be minimal, volunteers would be covered by police departments' liability insurance and workmen's compensation.

Given the uncertainty involved in those costs, we recommend the program begin on a trial basis, with a limited number of volunteers, until the numbers become clearer. We'd also like to see lawmakers compare the cost of doing this with volunteers versus contracting it out to private firms that would provide their own insurance, and replacement patrol people when other monitors have to go to court.

We raise these issues not because we don't believe that keeping handicapped spots for handicapped people is a laudable goal. It is, but because West Virginia's budget is tight, even the right things must be done as economically as possible.

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